The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge

The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge

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The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge at a Glance

Ideal time to visit:  

  • High season, from February through April


Nearby Activities:

  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Sportfishing
  • Some hiking
  • Wildlife observation


Nearby Attractions:

  • Tortuguero National Park

Special Features:

Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is the second-largest rainforest preserve in Costa Rica, and as such, is significantly quieter than some of the country's more easily accessible national parks. This park boasts more than 227,000 acres of dense jungle, making it an ideal destination for adventurous travelers.

Fast Facts About Barra del Colorado

Home of the endangered West Indian manatee. The second-largest rainforest preserve in Costa Rica.
Region: North Caribbean
Closest Town: Tortuguero, approximately 1 mile from park entrance
Altitude: 751 feet (228 meters)
Closest Airports: Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), Guapiles Airport
Average Temperature: 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius)

The Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is located on the lush green exotic Caribbean coast, in the province of Limon, between the Rio San Juan and the Tortuguero National Park, close to the Nicaraguan border. It is one of the largest and most remote conservation areas in Costa Rica. Its stunning natural beauty is matched only by its isolation, as it remains one of the most difficult national parks to access in the country. However, the journey is well worth it, as Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is home to some of the most exotic wildlife in Central America, including several species of big cat, diverse amphibians and the highly endangered West Indian manatee.

The 92,000 hectares of the park consist mainly of wetlands and rainforest, home to a plethora of indigenous flora and fauna. The best time to visit the Refuge is during the dry season between February and April. Monkeys, crocodiles, sloths, frogs, toucans, red macaws, and myriads of other tropical birds are abundant in the region and you will not have to look very hard to see them, while the vegetation is very lush green and abundant. The refuge is also a great place to go fishing for its abundant lagoons, creeks and rivers, indeed it has become an important sports fishing destination; snapper, tarpon and snook are the most frequently caught around there, while the river San Juan is teeming with Bull Sharks that migrated from the Caribbean sea. It is possible to rent a boat to go fishing within the park by may you may also rent one in any of the small lodges located along the rivers.

Barra, as the locals call it, is very similar to The Tortuguero National in way of biodiversity; they share the same plants and animals. Officials under the Regional Conservation Unit administrate the parks, but Barra is a lot more remote and receives a lot less visitors for being so difficult to reach. Tourists, especially those interested in ecotourism, are only just beginning to realize the richness of the flora and fauna of Barra. Few lodges are now also beginning to work towards ecotourism but most of their income still comes from sport fishing.

Activities & Things to Do

For sportfishermen, Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is unbeatable. Several of the largest species of fish in the country can be found in the San Juan and Colorado rivers, such as tarpon and snook – some of which can weigh up to 100 pounds, making them a prize for skilled anglers from around the world.

Even if you’re not into fishing, the peaceful waterways that wind through the park are perfect for getting back to nature and enjoying the tropical wildlife. There are many luxurious eco-lodges located along the banks of the two rivers, and kayaking down these serene rivers will make you feel as though you’re exploring a land lost in time.

Best Time to Visit

Due to the area’s perennially high rainfall, the best time to visit Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is during the height of the dry season between February and April.

Amenities & Infrastructure in Barra del Colorado

Public transportation: No. The park is very difficult to access, and is only reachable by plane or boat in most areas.
Public restrooms: Yes, at the two research stations in Tortuguero at the park’s southeastern edge
Shopping: None
ATMs: None
Gas stations: No. The majority of the park’s entrances are not accessible by road, and the nearest fuel station is located in Tortuguero, at the southeastern edge of the park.
Cell Phone Reception: Poor
Restaurants: None
Nearest medical facilities: None. First aid facilities are available at the two research stations in Tortuguero in the event of an emergency.